Wednesday, May 18, 2011

why box stores suck

When I got my full-time gig, I decided that I wanted to decorate my shiny new office with adult-level art. I didn't want to use Dali prints, movie posters, Christmas lights, or anything that would be at home in a college, I had a full-time job, so I was now an "adult" (whatever that means). I went to a few art fairs, but the only things that were even remotely affordable were of the "horse" genre, "barn" genre, or the more experimental "horse in front of barn" school of photography....and while I wanted an adult space, I didn't want that space to be reminiscent of adult farmers.

Frankly, I felt I could do better. So, rather than return to my early love of fingerpainting, I decided my quest to take control of my artwork would be better served by buying a digital camera and learning more about photography via first-person experimentation. I got a decent point-and-shoot, started messing around, and eventually, I think I got pretty good for a hobbyist (although you can judge for yourself). My office, in addition to the "wall of band flyers" (of which I'm very proud), has some very cool shots, and my oft-oblivious and next-to-impossible-to-impress students have even complemented me on occasion.

For a fairly old (6 years at this point) point-and-shoot, my camera has done pretty well. However, there are things it does not do particularly stellar. The flash, for instance, looks like someone lit a pile of magnesium on fire. I hate flash photography anyway, so I try to do low and natural light images...but people have to either stay perfectly still for several months consecutively (the shutter speed on my camera is essentially glacial), or the image just introduces a whole bunch of noise and blur.

So, when I found out I was gonna be a father, I realized one of my "father" tasks would be documenting Mighty's growth and a new camera, I reasoned, would be a pretty reasonable investment. I asked friends for recommendations, did the research, and settled on a good model. And, for the last baby shower, my awesome sororal unit gave me a sizable gift card for one of the big box appliance stores...I won't say exactly which one, but they claim to have the (ahem) "best buys."

I sit down to purchase it online yesterday. I pull up the store's website, search for the model, and find it. Hey, they even are advertising free shipping! So I add it to my cart, and then it tells me "shipping is not available." Um, okay. Then I see it has "ship to store/pickup" as an I entered my zip code, and it listed a bunch of stores. I click on the "add to cart" button listed for the closest one...and the page refreshed, but with "unavailable at this location." Grr. I then clicked on the next store...and the next...and the next...but the damn camera wasn't available at any store in a hundred miles (a fact the website decided to tell me only in annoying little increments).

By this time, I'm steaming. So, on the suggestion of the spousal unit, I call the company's 1-800 number. They put me through to a digital camera sales specialist. I explain my plight...and the sales expert informs me they only have a few of my cameras available nationwide. I ask if they can ship me one of the models, and they tell me they cannot. Um, okay. I ask them why the model is listed on the website, and they tell me that they've been meaning to take it off-line. Um, sure. I ask them if they're going to get more, and they say they should eventually. That's helpful. I ask if they can tell me when, and they say they haven't been given that information. Gee, thanks. I then ask if they can send me an e-mail or something when they do get some more in, and they tell me, no, for some reason, they cannot.

This is from a customer sales specialist?

I realize that this is the very definition of a first world problem...but hell, why is a store so determined to make it hard to give them money for a product they supposedly stock? If I didn't have the gift card, I'd go somewhere else, but I'm kind of locked in to a store which wants to make it very hard for me to give them my business. And this is not the first time this has happened...a little over a year ago, they refused to honor their price-match guarantee because their mp3 player model was (get this) a different color. I thought about just getting a different model camera, but the next best four options were also back-ordered or out of stock. Sigh.

Yeah, this is so much better than having a local, specialized, service-oriented retailer.

I'm trying to figure out exactly what the benefit might be of such box stores, and I gotta admit, I'm drawing a blank. It can't be an increased selection...because this company only claims a wide selection which they don't actually have. It can't be cheaper prices...because that's kind of a moot issue when they don't want to actually sell you anything. The point, best as it seems, appears to be to dumb down the average consumer to accept whatever crap service the corporations give you.

This is why, the older I get, the more I hate capitalism.

No comments: